Banned UK Parliament Satire In the UK it is illegal to broadcast parliamentary proceedings in a comedic or satirical context

Satirical coverage of British Parliament: Banned in the UK

Have you ever wondered why Have I got News For You or Mock The Week is so utterly barren when it comes to footage from Parliament? Ironically, the rest of the world can laugh at our politicians all they wish but we Brits aren’t afforded that right. In fact, it took 50 years before any form of broadcast from Parliament whatsoever was permitted on our screens. Today, Parliament can be broadcast only if it is not appearing on satire or comedy programmes. Furthermore, clips can not be broadcast anywhere that might cast doubt upon the “dignity of the House”. This is why episodes of satirical shows broadcast abroad such as the Daily Show are occasionally silently banned from being aired on British TV. Similar rules apply regarding royal matters, the BBC have even ordered foreign broadcatsers to censure humorists that make use of their coverage of the Royals.

Here’s a snapshot of what we could be missing out on, taken from the Irish Parliament. The following clip is perfectly legal in the UK but if you’re reading from Ireland you’d better turn away now as the Irish have a similar law, making it effectively illegal to broadcast this clip in Ireland unless you can somehow manage to fail to construe it as humorous. So just to clarify, if you are reading from Ireland, this clip containing “most unparliamentary language”, is not a joke.


Graham Lineman: Get a load of this ridiculous thing I found the fuck out last night! (major hat tip)
What Do They Know: Televising Parliament (See Section 4)
New Statesman: Why our parliament is literally beyond satire
Snapstream: It’s illegal to use government footage on TV for comedy/satire in the UK & Australia!
BoingBoing: Daily Show episode yanked from UK TV because Brit law prohibits using Parliamentary footage in satire
Digital Spy: ‘Chaser’ royal wedding show banned

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Typing troll What is ATL trolling?

line 598 What is ATL trolling?

Above the line trolling is a term used to describe a troll who writes articles, unlike most trolls who reside in internet chat rooms and “below the line” on article discussions. ATL trolls often write for leading tabloid newspapers.

How do you spot an article written by an ATL troll?
An article written by an ATL troll can easily be spotted by the uproar in the comments section below the article. Articles will often contain little to no factual content, instead articles are based on prejudice, idle speculation and wilful ignorance. The ATL troll relies on a toolbox of logical fallacies including the straw man, the ad hominem attack and a dependence on anecdotal evidence in order to whip the reader in to a frenzy of consternation. Invariably a host of less critically minded folk will take the article at face value typically ensuing in a flame war “below the line”.

Why do ATL trolls exist?
Online publishers receive revenue through advertising clicks, a clearly misinformed article can attract hundreds of thousands of visits as readers share the article. The phenomenon can be likened to the rubbernecking effect, in which drivers cause a traffic jam as they slow down to view the wreckage of a car crash.

Where did the term originate?
The above the line / below the line terminology is pinched from the ad business, an above the line troll may also be called an ABL troll.

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Stephen Colbert For President When Satire Is Mistaken For Reality

On Friday, American political satirist Stephen Colbert entered the republican race along with his exploratory committee consisting of “someone good with explosives, a mountain climber and a brain in a jar”. The purpose of the stunt is to illustrate the twisted state of electoral funding in the states but the matter also highlights a number of other issues.

Colbert is famed for satirising the Uber-right wing political commentator Bill O’Reilly and the FOX news network in general, a network which research has repeatedly demonstrated somehow manages to leave its viewers less informed than those who watch no news at all. Amazingly, Colbert’s satire is so spectacularly deadpan that research has demonstrated that a  significant proportion of right wing Americans actually believe that Colbert is genuinely a right wing commentator!

Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert’s political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion”.

LaMarre, H., Landreville, K., & Beam, M. (2009). The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 14 (2), 212-231 (PDF)

(NB: Admittedly this research has a tiny sample size, so more research on this would be tremendous.)

If you somehow missed the memo back in 2006, kick back and enjoy this awe-inspiring footage of Colbert slamming George W Bush from four feet away for over twenty minutes at the White House Correspondents Dinner which he was invited to host under the false belief that he was a pro-conservative politician.

For the full experience you’ll want to synch that video with the following footage of Bush’s reaction.

Colbert is known for satirising the popular U.S format of misreporting the news through the use of sensationalist arguments completely devoid of facts.

I’ll leave you to track down more Colbert videos yourself. As many of you will already know, the SOPA bill currently going through the U.S legislature would make it illegal to link to videos as I have done so above. Yesterday a UK court ruled that Richard O’Dwyer, developer of TV Shack is to be extradited to the U.S to be tried for doing just that, demonstrating that SOPA is something we all should be worried about.


LaMarre, H., Landreville, K., & Beam, M. (2009). The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report The International Journal of Press/Politics, 14 (2), 212-231 DOI: 10.1177/1940161208330904 (PDF)

RAMSAY, C. , KULL, S. , LEWIS, E. & SUBIA, S. (2010). Misinformation and the 2010 Election. Published online at WORLDPUBLICOPINION.ORG by University of Maryland

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Do you ever feel like you are living in a rabbit hole? The same recycled news, phone tapping, phone tapping, phone tapping. The internet is making you stupid. Blah. Blah. Blah?Is Google making us Stupid Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?

Once again a controversial academic paper is claiming that the internet is damaging our ability to recall, or at least changing the way we think. This time it has appeared in the journal Science titled “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips” (£). We’ve discussed previously the vast ammounts of unfounded conjecture surrounding this topic but until now there has been little (if any) published research that comes close to shedding any light on the issue. Somewhat unsurprisingly the paper is being taken very seriously, however on closer inspection it presents a far from watertight case. As Buldric might say, this case is in fact so leaky a marauding lascivious nun wouldn’t use it to surreptitiously store her illicit liquor stash. Darling.

Leaky Darrrrling Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?

Darling's Leaky Case

The paper uses an interesting (ahem) technique of measuring how much participants are thinking of computers when asked to recall information. The method called the “stroop test” is traditionally used as a texbook measure of attention.

stroop Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?

Why is this pattern familiar? Are you thinking what I'm thinking..?

In the experiment 106 Harvard graduates were given trivia questions. After this happened, coloured words either relating to computers or not relating to computers popped up and participants would have to say the colour of the word. This is the crucial bit. The logic that the “findings” that “Google effects memory” depend on, is based on the presumption that if the Harvard grads were already thinking of googling the answer then this would delay their response upon seeing the word “Google” (or “Yahoo”) in a stroop test. Now, as always, I hate to throw a spanner in the works of a watertight hypothesis but there does seem to be a slight confounding variable in the fact that the Google logo is erm, multi-*******-coloured.

Google Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?


I’m always struck by the leap of faith that goes in to reaching conclusions in studies such as this but this time it just seems plain ridiculous. The researchers claim that:

“People who have been disposed to think about a certain topic [i.e. internet search providers] typically show slowed reaction times (RTs) for naming the color of the word when the word itself is of interest and is more accessible, because the word captures attention and interferes with the fastest possible color naming.”

One of the things I tend to find a bit odd is that such tiny results can be used to reach such sweeping conclusions, in this study the difference in reaction time between the “computer terms” and the “general terms” was a fraction of a second…

Google memory Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?

Difference in reaction times on Stroop task after hearing each word

Never mind the monster of a confounding variable that the Google logo is famously multi-[deep breaths now]-coloured but surely there are positively dozens of other factors at work such as that the terms “Google” and “Yahoo” are likely to ellicit far more complex ideas and memories than the control words “Nike” and “Target”. I mean come on, the mere words “Nike” and “Target” are unlikely to excite even the most hard core sportswear fans let alone a bunch of Harvard graduates.

Nike Jokers Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?

Hardcore Sportswear Fans

Come to think of it I’m pretty sure there are plently of Harvard graduates that would have loved nothing more than to have been the ones to come up with the code underlying Google (Yahoo, not so much).

google party1 Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?I rest my.. case.

rb2 large gray Google is Destroying Your Memory. Sorry WHAT?

Sparrow, B. Liu, J. & Wegner , D. (2011) Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Science

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MR SHARP The Wonderful World of Mr. SharpWhile trying to track down a certain 1950’s public service announcement I stumbled upon this brilliant, tongue-in-cheek collection of ingenious mock PSA’s by a one man band called Mr. Sharp. I’ve made a playlist of the whole series that runs to about an hour and in that time Mr. Sharp manages to cover almost every conceivable topic. The series positively drips with irony and has a somewhat unique charm to it, I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

Non-stop playlist

If you prefer to dip in and out, I’ve embedded all of the videos below…

Continue reading »

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